Sunday, April 30, 2017

Steam Conservation Guidelines for Condensate Drainage

Any company that is energy conscious is also environmentally conscious. Less energy consumed means less waste, fewer emissions and a healthier environment.

In short, bringing energy and environment together lowers the cost industry must pay for both. By helping companies manage energy, Armstrong and Mead O'Brien products and services are also help protect the environment.

Steam is an invisible gas generated by adding heat energy to water in a boiler. Enough energy must be added to raise the temperature of the water to the boiling point. Then additional energy—without any further increase in temperature—changes the water to steam.

Steam is a very efficient and easily controlled heat transfer medium. It is most often used for transporting energy from a central location (the boiler) to any number of locations in the plant where it is used to heat air, water or process applications.

As noted, additional Btu are required to make boiling water change to steam. These Btu are not lost but stored in the steam ready to be released to heat air, cook tomatoes, press pants or dry a roll of paper.

The heat required to change boiling water into steam is called the heat of vaporization or latent heat. The quantity is different for every pressure/temperature combination, as shown in the steam tables.

Heat flows from a higher temperature level to a lower temperature level in a process known as heat transfer. Starting in the combustion chamber of the boiler, heat flows through the boiler tubes to the water. When the higher pressure in the boiler pushes steam out, it heats the pipes of the distribution system. Heat flows from the steam through the walls of the pipes into the cooler surrounding air. This heat transfer changes some of the steam back into water. That’s why distribution lines are usually insulated to minimize this wasteful and undesirable heat transfer.

When steam reaches the heat exchangers in the system, the story is different. Here the transfer of heat from the steam is desirable. Heat flows to the air in an air heater, to the water in a water heater or to food in a cooking kettle. Nothing should interfere with this heat transfer.

Condensate Drainage - Why It’s Necessary


Condensate is the by-product of heat transfer in a steam system. It forms in the distribution system due to unavoidable radiation. It also forms in heating and process equipment as a result of desirable heat transfer from the steam to the substance heated. Once the steam has condensed and given up its valuable latent heat, the hot condensate must be removed immediately. Although the available heat in a pound of condensate is negligible as compared to a pound of steam, condensate is still valuable hot water and should be returned to the boiler.

The document below provides and excellent reference for understanding the properties of steam and the importance of condensate drainage for an efficient system. You may also download your own copy of the Steam Conservation Guidelines for Condensate Drainage here.